Getting Brand Links to Ecommerce Sites (and the Best Way to Do It)

For Ecommerce business owners, one of my favourite link building tactic recommendations is the process of getting links from the websites of the brands that they sell. If they sell 50 brands, that’s potentially up to 50 links ready and waiting from each of their respective websites, who should really be linking to them if they have Where To Buy/Our Stockists sections.

Adidas Store Finder screenshot
A year or so ago, I tried this tactic for a client, but… it didn’t go well. More recently, I tried the tactic again but I tried a different approach to it – and it worked a treat. It might be obvious to some, but I thought that it’d be important to type it all up as a case study – that targeting the right people at those brands can inevitably make all the difference in your chances of success.

Whether you work in-house at an ecommerce company, or work with ecommerce business clients at an agency or as a freelancer, the latter tactic that I tried could serve you well, too.

The client & the plan

One of my long-term clients is an indepedent opticians. In addition to providing eye tests and emergency services, they also sell a variety of eyewear brands, including Adidas, Ray Ban and Emporio Armani – massive brands with authoritative websites: SEO gold-dust.

Admittedly, not all of them link out, but if they share NAP (Name, Address, Phone) data then there’s a potential citation in it for the client, which would help out on the Local SEO front. And of course, there’s the added benefit that someone might find the client if they’re a fan of one of the brands and looking to see if they’re sold in the area.

As soon as the work started, getting links from brand websites was a tactic that I knew that I wanted to prioritise. I obtained a list from the client of all the brands that they stocked – a list of 19 brands – and got to work.

Attempt #1 – Using web-based enquiry forms

In my eagerness and excitement, I got cracking. I visited each site to check whether there was an opportunity in the first place. Some didn’t have websites, some didn’t list places where you could buy their products, and some of them (especially the fancier, trendier brands) would only list their own branded stores, not other sellers such as opticians. After I did the research, I narrowed the 19 down to 4. That sounds lame, admittedly, but it still included Adidas and Ray Ban (Domain Authority 68 and 78, respectfully, as I type this), so I was happy.

I then jumped onto their Contact pages and either filled out their general enquiry form or pinged an email to their info@ email (or the equivalent).

Only 2 of them responded, and one of them was a mess – I was bounced around multiple departments, had to chase them multiple times, and in the end we didn’t even manage to get it sorted and I gave up.

All in all, it was a bit of a waste of time.

Attempt #2 – Getting brand representative contacts

handshake-doorIn addition to blind eagerness, the reason that I went for attempt #1 was because I could get cracking straight away. I knew that if I asked the client for a list of brand contacts (the company reps) at each brand, it could slow things down. But due to the poor success rate of my first attempt, I asked them for a list. After chasing them many, many, many times, 6 months(!) later I finally got the full list. It was a headache, but it was worth the wait…

This time, it also included the brands of contact lenses that they stocked (something that I’d overlooked previously), so the list was a little bigger this time. Again, after trawling through them all, there were only 7 opportunites – but this time, I had 7 phone numbers, 6 of them being direct mobile numbers of individual representatives at each brand, who were my client’s main point-of-contact. Granted, they’re not the people that we wanted to speak to specifically (we wanted to speak to the Marketing and/or Web teams), but they could pass on their contact info or pass on the request on our behalf.

I’m not a big fan of making phonecalls (if you fancy a chuckle, I recommend reading this story about the time that I got royally trolled), but that’s all I had. After calling all 7 numbers… I left 6 voicemails (the 7th resulted in getting an email address). Not the best of starts, but…

Within the next few hours, 4 of them called me back, 3 of which I spoke to and they told me that they’d sort it out for me. One of them promised me that it’d be sorted within just 24 hours. Another – rather than calling me – confessed (via text) that they were on holiday and currently sitting on a beach somwhere, but even so, they had passed on the request to their colleagues back at the office. Wow.

So… Attempt #1 had a success rate of 25% and was an absolute hassle. Attempt #2 had a success rate of c. 85% and I pretty much had them all sorted only a few hours after making initial contact.

Arguably it was a little na├»ve of me not to consider contacting the brand reps straight away. But it’s a classic case that goes to show that the more direct you can make the contact, the more chance of success you’ll have, especially as – in this case – the brand reps want to make sure that the opticians are happy.

And there you go. “I was blind but now I see” …Pun fully intended (sorry).

Conclusion & takeaways

So, to summarise and to expand on a few points:

  • Ok, so the title is a bit of a misnomer in terms of this client because they’re not actually an Ecommerce business. They don’t sell the glasses/lenses via their website (it’s a future consideration), but they do sell them in-store. What makes it even more unusual is that they’re primarily a service business (being an opticians) that also sells products. Go through your own clients: do any of them fit this bill? Are they potential candidates for getting brand links and you just didn’t realise? Sometimes it’s not obvious.
  • As per standard link building best practice, once you’ve identified the possible sites to contact, you might want to prioritise them in order of high-to-low Domain Authority. This wasn’t too big an issue for us, as there were only a handful of opportunities, but if you’re a big Ecommerce site that sells 500 different brands, this would make more sense, so that you’re honing in on those that give you the biggest SEO/citation value in the meantime, while you wade through the rest.
  • If you’re dealing with a client with Local SEO potential, don’t forget about the citation value! Is the name spelt correctly? In our case, for those where the client was already listed, some of them still had the pre-rebrand name showing, so we still needed to contact the brand in order to put it right. Is the address right? The postcode? The phone number? In some instances, there might not be a link opportunity at all, but there could be a great citation that needs to be sorted. Links aren’t everything – getting your NAP data right counts, too.
  • Obviously the biggest takeaway here is to make sure that you contact the most direct person that you can, and if you’re dealing with a particular contact – such as an account manager/business development person – at a brand, they’re going to be a better ‘in’ than the general enquiries email address. But most importantly: perservere. Remember, you’re selling their product – if they have a list or map of stockists and you’re not on it, you should be on it…! There’s no harm pestering and chasing them to make sure that you’re eventually added – as you should be!

Good luck!

[Sunglasses image credit]

About Steve Morgan

CIM-qualified Online Marketing & SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Consultant with 8 years of online marketing experience: 4 years' agency experience; around 6 months' experience working in-house for a national household name in the insurance industry; now freelancing full-time.

  • The best way to earn links to e-commerce websites is simply to do publicity campaigns for the company. Most of the resulting news coverage and blog posts will contain links to reference what people are talking about. And for any coverage that contains mentions without leaks, then the company could consider whether to contact the authors and ask them to add links.

    • That’s a fantastic point, Samuel – thanks for mentioning it. The more that you champion your brands, the more chance that they’ll recognise and reward your efforts by championing you in return.

      The only thing I’d caution is if you concentrate on some brands more than others, the latter might feel as though you’re showing favourtism to (potentially) their competitors and therefore it could sour relationships with some of the brands. But hey, if there’s a way that you can champion them all equally, then I reckon you’re onto a winner…!

  • Brett Downes

    I worked for a experience days company, where we were often the big branded website offering a variety of different experiences all leading to each individual company we represented. We had about 300 vendors, but at first they were loathe to link to us because if booking with us, they would lose their 20% commission rather than if they went direct.

    We circumvented this point by getting them to link to our home page or another category that didn’t duplicate their category. So say, a fishing day would link to our home page or say drive a ferrari for a day, rather than our fishing and wildlife category. We managed to persuade 250+ of these companies to link with us based on this new approach and as the website category matched ours – the links were relevant and proved to be very beneficial. This also benefited each of our vendors indirectly as we were ranking much higher in searches which would result in more business coming their way.

    • Thanks for sharing, Brett. My parents have had a similar issue with their Spanish property rentals business – a lot of the rental websites that they’re featured on would abstain from linking out because otherwise people might book direct (and they’d lose out on the commission fee). That’s a brillaint workaround though – good work!

      • Brett Downes

        Our other option, which involved slightly more work was to ask the customers how they came to our site (via confirmation e-mail) So if it turns out they came to us via the vendor website we would waive the commission, Fairs fair. Luckily we didn’t need to to that.